Wavy hair has always been flattering and trendy — and even more so today as celebrities and beauty influencers are embracing their natural wavy hair texture over pin-straight locks. But if you have wavy tresses, you already know that your strands need a little extra TLC to look their best. That’s why hair experts recommend having a dedicated wavy hair routine made up of a few very simple steps that will ensure waves appear wow-worthy. Keep scrolling to learn all you need to know when it comes to enhancing your natural waves.
Why wavy hair requires a specialized routine
The S-shape most waves display actually starts at the follicle level and influences the way each strand receives natural oils from the scalp. Oil can’t travel as easily down the hair shaft in wavy hair as in straight hair, so waves can be prone to dryness. This can make wavy hair more susceptible to damage.
Your best defense against this hydration deficit: A go-to wavy hair routine that’s super moisturizing. “Using techniques and curating a hair routine specific to your wavy hair is important for a few reasons,” says Jaclyn Gil Serchuk, hair care expert and founder of Miribel Naturals. “First, wavy hair routines are made to moisturize dry locks. And making sure your waves are properly moisturized will lead to healthier hair that is less frizzy, more defined and breaks less often.” Additionally, the added moisture to wavy hair can make thinner tresses appear instantly thicker.
The 2 best wavy hair routines
Want your waves to look as great on day two or three as they do right after washing hair? It’s doable! You’ll just need a little know-how to ensure you’re fighting frizz and defining your strands from the get-go. Also, depending on if you prefer to style hair wet or dry, the process can change a bit. So we turned to hair pros for simple wavy hair routines tailored to wet and dry styling.
Wavy hair routine when hair is wet
- After hair has been washed, lightly pat strands so they’ll be damp — not sopping wet — for styling. “I remove extra water by patting the hair with a T-shirt to avoid using a towel, which can be rough on the hair,” says celebrity hairstylist Sophie Rose Gutterman, who works with All About Curls hair care brand. Serchuk adds that this also reduces friction to hair to cut down on frizz.
- Next, apply leave-in conditioner, like Hask Argan Oil 5-in-1 Leave-In Spray (Buy from Ulta, $5.39). Serchuk recommends dividing your hair into four sections, then finger-rake the product throughout your hair. “This cream will help your waves stay intact for a longer period of time,” she adds. Regardless of length, focus the leave-in on the mid-shaft of hair to ends. If desired, Serchuk says you can use a brush to help with distribution, too. “You’ll want to take small sections of hair and brush up and away from your scalp,” she says. “This will help provide definition and root volume.”
- Enhance and set waves with an additional styling product. Both Gutterman and Serchuk like water-based and alcohol-free gels at this step. “This helps provide additional moisture and hold without leaving your hair feeling crunchy,” says Serchuk. Scrunch a nickel-size amount of gel into your waves. “Typically, you want to apply the product while moving your head in all directions — upside down, left, and right,” says Gutterman. Tip: You can blot hair again with a T-shirt to remove any excess product or water.
- Let your hair air dry, diffuse it, or do a combination of both. For example, Gutterman typically diffuses wavy hair until it’s about 90% percent dry, then she lets the rest air dry. And when using a diffuser or other hot tools, prep hair with a heat protectant and use lower temperature to thwart damage and dryness.
Wavy hair routine when hair is dry
- Divide your hair into four equal sections.
- Redefine waves by rehydrating them. It’s best to use a lightweight mousse, like Function of Beauty Zero Gravity Styling Hair Mousse (Buy from Target, $12.99), to prevent hair and waves from being weighed down.
- Using your fingers or a brush, gently distribute a dollop of mousse through your waves in sections to coax them back into shape by following your hair’s natural wave pattern.
- To help define waves even more — and depending on your desired wavy look — Gutterman suggests wrapping various sections around a curling iron to fix any pieces that have come undone. Similar to using a diffuser, prep hair with a heat protectant before curling.
Check out this video from the Birchbox YouTube channel for more way hair styling tricks.
Things to keep in mind when styling wavy hair
Regardless of whether you’re styling wet or dry wavy hair, length can play a role in how you approach your waves. If you have short wavy hair, you’ll want to use less styling products. That’s because using too much product or the wrong formula can weigh it down, says Gutterman. “Second, you could notice one of two things — either your hair looks curlier because the length of your hair is no longer weighing down your waves, or without length, your hair looks straighter,” says Serchuk. “If you notice your hair looking curlier, you may need to explore different techniques, such as finger coiling.”
Gutterman adds that moisture is always key in fighting frizz for wavy hair routines, so if you can start with wet hair, that’s ideal. But over-washing can be problematic for wavy hair, too, so it’s all about balance and working with — not against — your waves. “Learning what your wave pattern does when it’s wet and dry will help you better understand how to manage it,” says Gutterman. And testing out different methods and products can also be beneficial for enhancing natural waves.
The best products for wavy hair
Here, the top picks from the experts we polled that work well when styling wavy hair.
All About Curls Wonder-Full Waves Gelee (Buy from Amazon, $12.90)
“This can be used on wet or dry hair, says Gutterman. And unlike traditional hair gels, it’s lightweight so hair won’t be left looking or feeling crunchy. She recommends starting with a quarter-sized amount and add a little bit more if you have thick, long hair.
Miribel Naturals Powerhouse Protein Cream (Buy from Miribel Naturals, $28)
“Wavy hair needs strength to maintain its structure,” says Serchuk. “Without it, your waves will fall flat.” And the protein in this cream does just that notes Serchuk as it fortifies hair follicles to keep waves strong and defined.
Living Proof Perfect Hair Day (PhD) Heat Styling Spray (Buy from Ulta, $32)
This mist is Gutterman’s pick for heat protection on dry hair as it safeguards hair up 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Simply spritz all over hair before diffusing damp hair or touching up dry hair with a curling iron.
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